Baptism Jesus Christ
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Baptism Jesus Christ
Page 18

The Philippian Jailer

WavesThere are two "dominical sacraments" meaning "of the Lord" or "given by the Lord." These are baptism and Holy Communion. Baptism is the practice of the Early Church in "immersing in water" or "sprinkling with water" the new believer. We see this for example in the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by the Apostle Philip and the baptism of the entire family of the Philippian jailer. Baptism is one of two sacraments commanded by Jesus himself. Different denominations have different views as to how baptism should be carried out. Baptists practice believers' baptism of an adult by full immersion whereas Anglicans and Roman Catholics conduct infant baptism generally by the sprinkling of either a baby, an infant or even an adult from a font. Some denominations practice immersion as well as sprinkling.

Which Kind of Baptism?

Water of BaptismIn my opinion, there is no essential difference between the two forms of baptism except for the role of the godparents in infant baptism. In mainline churches such as The Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian, and Lutheran churches godparents make a solemn promise to lead the child to faith as they grow into adult life when they are then able to make their own decision for Christ at a Confirmation Service. Baptism in the Early Church was, I believe, initially carried out for all believing adults as well as their infants and children. The whole household in the case of the Philippian jailor is baptized. Later, during the first and second centuries, it becomes the norm for parents to baptize their infants and babies. Remember that society in early times is dominated by patriarchs who had control over every aspect of their families and slaves. The head of the household, therefore, decided what religion should be followed and who should be baptized. Baptism was demanded for every member of the Household. Having said this it is only fair to say there are almost certainly different practices among various groups of Christians around the Roman Empire at the same time. We are told in Acts 16.33 of the Philippian jailor that when he believed in Christ "he and all his family were immediately baptized." The jailor's family would certainly have included all ages of people including grandparents, teenagers, servants, slaves and even relatives in his home as well as many infants and babies who would have been under the control and authority of the head of the household, the Philippian jailor himself.

All Around Us

SurferThe Holy Spirit comes especially at baptism, as on many other occasions in our lives to bless us. The sacramental water of baptism hides beneath its ripples the flowing blessing of God through the Spirit's work. This is an amazing and incomprehensible truth.The Holy Spirit's work brings about the renewal and development of every atom of all creation and repeats this constantly and invisibly for all life forms. The Holy Spirit's work enlivens all creation and engineers the rejuvenation of plant and animal life. Without the Spirit's work, all creation would stop cold and dead in an instant. Behind the "mother nature" smoke screen propagated by our secular society, moves the real Holy Spirit worker. Mother nature never created a good harvest or a fall of rain. As the hymn says, "All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all."

Refreshing Water

Amazon RiverThere is a story of a boat adrift off the South American coast. The crew was dying of thirst. Another ship appears and hails it asking if there was anything they needed. The crew shouts back "Water, water!" The sailors on the second ship simply point over the side at the sea. All around them was the freshwater of the mighty Amazon River which poured out many miles into the saltwater ocean. Nourishing fresh water was available but they were still dying of thirst. They did not know of the thirst-quenching stream. In the same way, the Holy Spirit's work is all around us invisibly creating and renewing both us and our environment without us scarcely realizing it.✞

Inward Invisible Grace

Baptism is known as a sacrament. When we look closely enough, we find the Body of Christ beneath the surface of many seemingly mundane objects, such as water, bread, wine, and even a wooden cross. The term "Body of Christ" is used in two different senses in the New Testament. It may refer to Jesus' statement in Luke 22.19-20 at The Last Supper that "he (Jesus) took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.' We may note here that some manuscripts do not have "given for you" or "poured out for you" though it makes little difference to the meaning. The words "the Body of Christ" may also refer to the Christian Church as referenced by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.27 where he writes, "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." Here Saint Paul is explaining to Christians that they are in some respects the "outward and visible signs of an inward invisible grace" and hence they are also sacraments. There may be different interpretations by various denominations and churches of the meaning of "bread and wine" but these are minor in the overall scheme of things. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) who was a prominent early Christian theologian and philosopher, wrote in Sermon 262, "Christians are to see in the many grains, ground by the prayers of exorcism, moistened by the waters of baptism, and now united in the one Eucharistic loaf, the image of themselves as the Body of Christ, the Church." This is Saint Augustine's very novel way of combining the various sacraments into one statement of belief.

New Testament Importance

Infant baptismThe sacramental Body of Christ in all its forms has immense importance for the New Testament church. At the beginning of the Twenty-First Century, it is also a porthole into God's being. It is a bringer of divine grace which is the undeserved gift of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit. These sacramental models, when rediscovered, will provide what we now call "The Church" with a rich and inspirational understanding of the Mystical Body without leading us into superstitions and heresies.

Holy Spirit Baptism

Adult BaptismHoly Spirit baptism means being born of water followed by baptism in the Holy Spirit. Both are outward signs and visible signs of the inner holy life in an independent human being. John 3.5 says "Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit." "Born of water" is here variously understood as baptism in water or by others as the waters that break from the "amniotic fluid sac" for nine months, which is the "birth waters." There is about one liter of amniotic fluid at birth when the woman's waters break. Amniotic fluids are mostly electrolytes but later in the cycle also contains proteins and other compounds to aid in the growth of the fetus. For some Christians "born of the water" means being born in the birth waters and later born of the Spirit. "Born of the Spirit" may mean being given new life from the Holy Spirit at birth or for other Christians being converted later as an adult by an act of the Holy Spirit, sometimes accompanied by speaking in tongues. Baptism in water either by total immersion or by sprinkling is considered by the Christian church as a requirement for every disciple of Christ.

Water and Spirit Birth

New Born Foot in Mothers HandBirth can be viewed as the initiation of the human body into human life, just as baptism is seen as the mark of the entry of the soul into the Christian life. The breaking of the waters signifies the change from a dependent fetus to an independent human being, from one life in the mother to two separate existences outside of her. Holy Spirit baptism similarly witnesses the spiritual step from darkness into light.

Human Birth Waters

New Born BabyAt birth, a person is unceremoniously launched into human existence, at Holy Spirit baptism a person is ceremonially plunged into the community of the Body of Christ. The role of the Holy Spirit at baptism is often questioned. Does baptism mark the beginning of a person's ministry as it did for Jesus when the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove? In Mark 1.8 John the Baptist proclaims that Jesus "will baptize you with (or "in") the Holy Spirit." In John 1.33 John the Baptist says, "The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit." In Matthew 3.11 John the Baptist says, "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." In Luke 3.16 John the Baptist also declares, "I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Jesus is universally considered as the first person to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

"Baptism Jesus Christ"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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